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Taxpayers Beware of Stem Cell Head Fake

Tuesday February 7th, 2017   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 5:17am PST   •  

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) is in the news again, but this time it’s not slick ad copy masquerading as journalism, with the goal of shaking down taxpayers for more money. This time its Joe Rodota, former cabinet secretary to Gov. Pete Wilson, and Bernard Munos of the Innothink Center for Research in Biomedical Innovation, in a Sacramento Bee commentary headlined “To fulfill stem cell agency’s promise, consider winding it down.” The case for that is rather strong.

In twelve years, CIRM has failed to provide any of the promised life-saving cures and therapies. As Rodota and Munos recall, the Proposition 71 initiative that created CIRM also promised royalties that “will generate thousands of new jobs and millions in new state revenues.” CIRM is a bust on that too, and as the authors explain, the state agency “recently failed to raise just $75 million in new funds from private investors.” So no surprise that CIRM wants more money from taxpayers.

CIRM vice chair Art Torres, a former state Senator and Democratic Party boss, “recently floated a $5 billion trial balloon.” Torres is the non-scientist CIRM hired when others were willing to serve for nothing, and CIRM bosses immediately tripled Torres’ salary. So while CIRM fails to deliver cures, therapies and royalties, it succeeds as a sinecure for washed-up politicians and a conduit to redistribute money to favored insiders. Even so, Rodota and Munos don’t reject Torres’ $5 billion bond proposal.

They offer a laundry list of how the $5 billion could be used, under the auspices of the University of California. Only California companies with “potential to greatly impact patient health” would be eligible. The companies would give UC shares of their stock, which the UC would sell or leverage “as it sees fit.” Rodota and Munos say the bond would “build an army of new companies working on cures,” and “provide funding for hiring more UC professors or reducing the out-of-pocket cost of higher education.” No word about the odds of another $5 billion producing any life-saving cures when $3 billion failed to do so.

Taxpayers should consider the Rodota-Munos scheme a replay of Proposition 71’s false promises. Better to burst the $5 billion bond balloon, shut down CIRM completely, and let private citizens invest in medical research as they see fit.

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February 2017